The Inspector-General, by Nikolai Gogol


SCENE: Same as in Act III.


Enter cautiously, almost on tiptoe, Ammos Fiodorovich, Artemy Filippovich, the Postmaster, Luka Lukich, Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky in full dress-uniform.

Ammos. For God’s sake, gentlemen, quick, form your line, and let’s have more order. Why, man alive, he goes to Court and rages at the Imperial Council. Draw up in military line, strictly in military line. You, Piotr Ivanovich, take your place there, and you, Piotr Ivanovich, stand here. [Both the Piotr Ivanoviches run on tiptoe to the places indicated.]

Artemy. Do as you please, Ammos Fiodorovich, I think we ought to try.

Ammos. Try what?

Artemy. It’s clear what.

Ammos. Grease?

Artemy. Exactly, grease.

Ammos. It’s risky, the deuce take it. He’ll fly into a rage at us. He’s a government official, you know. Perhaps it should be given to him in the form of a gift from the nobility for some sort of memorial?

Postmaster. Or, perhaps, tell him some money has been sent here by post and we don’t know for whom?

Artemy. You had better look out that he doesn’t send you by post a good long ways off. Look here, things of such a nature are not done this way in a well-ordered state. What’s the use of a whole regiment here? We must present ourselves to him one at a time, and do — what ought to be done, you know — so that eyes do not see and ears do not hear. That’s the way things are done in a well-ordered society. You begin it, Ammos Fiodorovich, you be the first.

Ammos. You had better go first. The distinguished guest has eaten in your institution.

Artemy. Then Luka Lukich, as the enlightener of youth, should go first.

Luka. I can’t, I can’t, gentlemen. I confess I am so educated that the moment an official a single degree higher than myself speaks to me, my heart stands still and I get as tongue-tied as though my tongue were caught in the mud. No, gentlemen, excuse me. Please let me off.

Artemy. It’s you who have got to do it, Ammos Fiodorovich. There’s no one else. Why, every word you utter seems to be issuing from Cicero’s mouth.

Ammos. What are you talking about! Cicero! The idea! Just because a man sometimes waxes enthusiastic over house dogs or hunting hounds.

All [pressing him]. No, not over dogs, but the Tower of Babel, too. Don’t forsake us, Ammos Fiodorovich, help us. Be our Saviour!

Ammos. Let go of me, gentlemen.

Footsteps and coughing are heard in Khlestakov’s room. All hurry to the door, crowding and jostling in their struggle to get out. Some are uncomfortably squeezed, and half-suppressed cries are heard.

Bobchinsky’S VOICE. Oh, Piotr Ivanovich, you stepped on my foot.

Artemy. Look out, gentlemen, look out. Give me a chance to atone for my sins. You are squeezing me to death.

Exclamations of “Oh! Oh!” Finally they all push through the door, and the stage is left empty.


Enter Khlestakov, looking sleepy.

Khlestakov [alone]. I seem to have had a fine snooze. Where did they get those mattresses and feather beds from? I even perspired. After the meal yesterday they must have slipped something into me that knocked me out. I still feel a pounding in my head. I see I can have a good time here. I like hospitality, and I must say I like it all the more if people entertain me out of a pure heart and not from interested motives. The Governor’s daughter is not a bad one at all, and the mother is also a woman you can still — I don’t know, but I do like this sort of life.


Khlestakov and the Judge.

Judge [comes in and stops. [Talking to himself]. Oh, God, bring me safely out of this! How my knees are knocking together! [Drawing himself up and holding the sword in his hand. Aloud.] I have the honor to present myself — Judge of the District Court here, College Assessor Liapkin-Tiapkin.

Khlestakov. Please be seated. So you are the Judge here?

Judge. I was elected by the nobility in 1816 and I have served ever since.

Khlestakov. Does it pay to be a judge?

Judge. After serving three terms I was decorated with the Vladimir of the third class with the approval of the government. [Aside.] I have the money in my hand and my hand is on fire.

Khlestakov. I like the Vladimir. Anna of the third class is not so nice.

Judge [slightly extending his balled fist]. [Aside]. Good God! I don’t know where I’m sitting. I feel as though I were on burning coals.

Khlestakov. What have you got in your hand there?

Ammos [getting all mixed up and dropping the bills on the floor]. Nothing.

Khlestakov. How so, nothing? I see money has dropped out of it.

Ammos [shaking all over]. Oh no, oh no, not at all! [Aside.] Oh, Lord! Now I’m under arrest and they’ve brought a wagon to take me.

Khlestakov. Yes, it IS money. [Picking it up.]

Ammos [aside]. It’s all over with me. I’m lost! I’m lost!

Khlestakov. I tell you what — lend it to me.

Ammos [eagerly]. Why, of course, of course — with the greatest pleasure. [Aside.] Bolder! Bolder! Holy Virgin, stand by me!

Khlestakov. I’ve run out of cash on the road, what with one thing and another, you know. I’ll let you have it back as soon as I get to the village.

Ammos. Please don’t mention it! It is a great honor to have you take it. I’ll try to deserve it — by putting forth the best of my feeble powers, by my zeal and ardor for the government. [Rises from the chair and draws himself up straight with his hands hanging at his sides.] I will not venture to disturb you longer with my presence. You don’t care to give any orders?

Khlestakov. What orders?

Judge. I mean, would you like to give orders for the district court here?

Khlestakov. What for? I have nothing to do with the court now. No, nothing. Thank you very much.

Ammos [bowing and leaving]. [Aside.]. Now the town is ours.

Khlestakov. The Judge is a fine fellow.


Khlestakov and the Postmaster.

Postmaster [in uniform, sword in hand. Drawing himself up]. I have the honor to present myself — Postmaster, Court Councilor Shpekin.

Khlestakov. I’m glad to meet you. I like pleasant company very much. Take a seat. Do you live here all the time?

Postmaster. Yes, sir. Quite so.

Khlestakov. I like this little town. Of course, there aren’t many people. It’s not very lively. But what of it? It isn’t the capital. Isn’t that so — it isn’t the capital?

Postmaster. Quite so, quite so.

Khlestakov. It’s only in the capital that you find bon-ton and not a lot of provincial lubbers. What is your opinion? Isn’t that so?

Postmaster. Quite so. [Aside.] He isn’t a bit proud. He inquires about everything.

Khlestakov. And yet you’ll admit that one can live happily in a little town.

Postmaster. Quite so.

Khlestakov. In my opinion what you want is this — you want people to respect you and to love you sincerely. Isn’t that so?

Postmaster. Exactly.

Khlestakov. I’m glad you agree with me. Of course, they call me queer. But that’s the kind of character I am. [Looking him in the face and talking to himself.] I think I’ll ask this postmaster for a loan. [Aloud.] A strange accident happened to me and I ran out of cash on the road. Can you lend me three hundred rubles?

Postmaster. Of course. I shall esteem it a piece of great good fortune. I am ready to serve you with all my heart.

Khlestakov. Thank you very much. I must say, I hate like the devil to deny myself on the road. And why should I? Isn’t that so?

Postmaster. Quite so. [Rises, draws himself up, with his sword in his hand.] I’ll not venture to disturb you any more. Would you care to make any remarks about the post office administration?

Khlestakov. No, nothing.

The Postmaster bows and goes out.

Khlestakov [lighting a cigar]. It seems to me the Postmaster is a fine fellow, too. He’s certainly obliging. I like people like that.


Khlestakov and Luka Lukich, who is practically pushed in on the stage. A voice behind him is heard saying nearly aloud, “Don’t be chickenhearted.”

Luka [drawing himself up, trembling, with his hand on his sword]. I have the honor to present myself — School Inspector, Titular Councilor Khlopov.

Khlestakov. I’m glad to see you. Take a seat, take a seat. Will you have a cigar? [Offers him a cigar.]

Luka [to himself, hesitating]. There now! That’s something I hadn’t anticipated. To take or not to take?

Khlestakov. Take it, take it. It’s a pretty good cigar. Of course not what you get in St. Petersburg. There I used to smoke twenty-five cent cigars. You feel like kissing yourself after having smoked one of them. Here, light it. [Hands him a candle.]

Luka Lukich tries to light the cigar shaking all over.

Khlestakov. Not that end, the other.

Luka [drops the cigar from fright, spits and shakes his hands. Aside]. Confound it! My damned timidity has ruined me!

Khlestakov. I see you are not a lover of cigars. I confess smoking is my weakness — smoking and the fair sex. Not for the life of me can I remain indifferent to the fair sex. How about you? Which do you like more, brunettes or blondes?

Luka Lukich remains silent, at a complete loss what to say.

Khlestakov. Tell me frankly, brunettes or blondes?

Luka. I don’t dare to know.

Khlestakov. No, no, don’t evade. I’m bound to know your taste.

Luka. I venture to report to you — [Aside.] I don’t know what I’m saying.

Khlestakov. Ah, you don’t want to say. I suppose some little brunette or other has cast a spell over you. Confess, she has, hasn’t she?

Luka Lukich remains silent.

Khlestakov. Ah, you’re blushing. You see. Why don’t you speak?

Luka. I’m scared, your Hon — High — Ex — [Aside.] Done for! My confounded tongue has undone me!

Khlestakov. You’re scared? There IS something awe-inspiring in my eyes, isn’t there? At least I know not a single woman can resist them. Isn’t that so?

Luka. Exactly.

Khlestakov. A strange thing happened to me on the road. I ran entirely out of cash. Can you lend me three hundred rubles?

Luka [clutching his pockets. Aside]. A fine business if I haven’t got the money! I have! I have! [Takes out the bills and gives them to him, trembling.]

Khlestakov. Thank you very much.

Luka [drawing himself up, with his hand on his sword]. I will not venture to disturb you with my presence any longer.

Khlestakov. Good-by.

Luka [dashes out almost at a run, saying aside.] Well, thank the Lord! Maybe he won’t inspect the schools.


Khlestakov and Artemy Filippovich.

Artemy [enters and draws himself up, his hand on his sword]. I have the honor to present myself — Superintendent of Charities, Court Councilor Zemlianika.

Khlestakov. Howdeedo? Please sit down.

Artemy. I had the honor of receiving you and personally conducting you through the philanthropic institutions committed to my care.

Khlestakov. Oh, yes, I remember. You treated me to a dandy lunch.

Artemy. I am glad to do all I can in behalf of my country.

Khlestakov. I admit, my weakness is a good cuisine. — Tell me, please, won’t you — it seems to me you were a little shorter yesterday, weren’t you?

Artemy. Quite possible. [After a pause.] I may say I spare myself no pains and perform the duties of my office with the utmost zeal. [Draws his chair closer and speaks in a lowered tone.] There’s the postmaster, for example, he does absolutely nothing. Everything is in a fearful state of neglect. The mail is held up. Investigate for yourself, if you please, and you will see. The Judge, too, the man who was here just now, does nothing but hunt hares, and he keeps his dogs in the court rooms, and his conduct, if I must confess — and for the benefit of the fatherland, I must confess, though he is my relative and friend — his conduct is in the highest degree reprehensible. There is a squire here by the name of Dobchinsky, whom you were pleased to see. Well, the moment Dobchinsky leaves the house, the Judge is there with Dobchinsky’s wife. I can swear to it. You just take a look at the children. Not one of them resembles Dobchinsky. All of them, even the little girl, are the very image of the Judge.

Khlestakov. You don’t say so. I never imagined it.

Artemy. Then take the School Inspector here. I don’t know how the government could have entrusted him with such an office. He’s worse than a Jacobin freethinker, and he instils such pernicious ideas into the minds of the young that I can hardly describe it. Hadn’t I better put it all down on paper, if you so order?

Khlestakov. Very well, why not? I should like it very much. I like to kill the weary hours reading something amusing, you know. What is your name? I keep forgetting.

Artemy. Zemlianika.

Khlestakov. Oh, yes, Zemlianika. Tell me, Mr. Zemlianika, have you any children?

Artemy. Of course. Five. Two are already grown up.

Khlestakov. You don’t say! Grown up! And how are they — how are they — a — a?

Artemy. You mean that you deign to ask what their names are?

Khlestakov. Yes, yes, what are their names?

Artemy. Nikolay, Ivan, Yelizaveta, Marya and Perepetuya.

Khlestakov. Good.

Artemy. I don’t venture to disturb you any longer with my presence and rob you of your time dedicated to the performance of your sacred duties —— [Bows and makes to go.]

Khlestakov [escorting him]. Not at all. What you told me is all very funny. Call again, please. I like that sort of thing very much. [Turns back and reopens the door, calling.] I say, there! What is your —— I keep forgetting. What is your first name and your patronymic?

Artemy. Artemy Filippovich.

Khlestakov. Do me a favor, Artemy Filippovich. A curious accident happened to me on the road. I’ve run entirely out of cash. Have you four hundred rubles to lend me?

Artemy. I have.

Khlestakov. That comes in pat. Thank you very much.


Khlestakov, Bobchinsky, and Dobchinsky.

Bobchinsky. I have the honor to present myself — a resident of this town, Piotr, son of Ivan Bobchinsky.

Dobchinsky. I am Piotr, son of Ivan Dobchinsky, a squire.

Khlestakov. Oh, yes, I’ve met you before. I believe you fell? How’s your nose?

Bobchinsky. It’s all right. Please don’t trouble. It’s dried up, dried up completely.

Khlestakov. That’s nice. I’m glad it’s dried up. [Suddenly and abruptly.] Have you any money?

Dobchinsky. Money? How’s that — money?

Khlestakov. A thousand rubles to lend me.

Bobchinsky. Not so much as that, honest to God I haven’t. Have you, Piotr Ivanovich?

Dobchinsky. I haven’t got it with me, because my money — I beg to inform you — is deposited in the State Savings Bank.

Khlestakov. Well, if you haven’t a thousand, then a hundred.

Bobchinsky [fumbling in his pockets]. Have you a hundred rubles, Piotr Ivanovich? All I have is forty.

Dobchinsky [examining his pocket-book]. I have only twenty-five.

Bobchinsky. Look harder, Piotr Ivanovich. I know you have a hole in your pocket, and the money must have dropped down into it somehow.

Dobchinsky. No, honestly, there isn’t any in the hole either.

Khlestakov. Well, never mind. I merely mentioned the matter. Sixty-five will do. [Takes the money.]

Dobchinsky. May I venture to ask a favor of you concerning a very delicate matter?

Khlestakov. What is it?

Dobchinsky. It’s a matter of an extremely delicate nature. My oldest son — I beg to inform you — was born before I was married.

Khlestakov. Indeed?

Dobchinsky. That is, only in a sort of way. He is really my son, just as if he had been born in wedlock. I made up everything afterwards, set everything right, as it should be, with the bonds of matrimony, you know. Now, I venture to inform you, I should like to have him altogether — that is, I should like him to be altogether my legitimate son and be called Dobchinsky the same as I.

Khlestakov. That’s all right. Let him be called Dobchinsky. That’s possible.

Dobchinsky. I shouldn’t have troubled you; but it’s a pity, he is such a talented youngster. He gives the greatest promise. He can recite different poems by heart; and whenever he gets hold of a penknife, he makes little carriages as skilfully as a conjurer. Here’s Piotr Ivanovich. He knows. Am I not right?

Bobchinsky. Yes, the lad is very talented.

Khlestakov. All right, all right. I’ll try to do it for you. I’ll speak to — I hope — it’ll be done, it’ll all be done. Yes, yes. [Turning to Bobchinsky.] Have you anything you’d like to say to me?

Bobchinsky. Why, of course. I have a most humble request to make.

Khlestakov. What is it?

Bobchinsky. I beg your Highness or your Excellency most worshipfully, when you get back to St. Petersburg, please tell all the high personages there, the senators and the admirals, that Piotr Ivanovich Bobchinsky lives in this town. Say this: “Piotr Ivanovich lives there.”

Khlestakov. Very well.

Bobchinsky. And if you should happen to speak to the Czar, then tell him, too: “Your Majesty,” tell him, “Your Majesty, Piotr Ivanovich Bobchinsky lives in this town.”

Khlestakov. Very well.

Bobchinsky. Pardon me for having troubled you with my presence.

Khlestakov. Not at all, not at all. It was my pleasure. [Sees them to the door.]


Khlestakov [alone]. My, there are a lot of officials here. They seem to be taking me for a government functionary. To be sure, I threw dust in their eyes yesterday. What a bunch of fools! I’ll write all about it to Triapichkin in St. Petersburg. He’ll write them up in the papers. Let him give them a nice walloping. — Ho, Osip, give me paper and ink.

Osip [looking in at the door]. D’rectly.

Khlestakov. Anybody gets caught in Triapichkin’s tongue had better look out. For the sake of a witticism he wouldn’t spare his own father. They are good people though, these officials. It’s a nice trait of theirs to lend me money. I’ll just see how much it all mounts up to. Here’s three hundred from the Judge and three hundred from the Postmaster — six hundred, seven hundred, eight hundred — What a greasy bill! — Eight hundred, nine hundred. — Oho! Rolls up to more than a thousand! Now, if I get you, captain, now! We’ll see who’ll do whom!


Khlestakov and Osip entering with paper and ink.

Khlestakov. Now, you simpleton, you see how they receive and treat me. [Begins to write.]

Osip. Yes, thank God! But do you know what, Ivan Aleksandrovich?

Khlestakov. What?

Osip. Leave this place. Upon my word, it’s time.

Khlestakov [writing]. What nonsense! Why?

Osip. Just so. God be with them. You’ve had a good time here for two days. It’s enough. What’s the use of having anything more to do with them? Spit on them. You don’t know what may happen. Somebody else may turn up. Upon my word, Ivan Aleksandrovich. And the horses here are fine. We’ll gallop away like a breeze.

Khlestakov [writing]. No, I’d like to stay a little longer. Let’s go tomorrow.

Osip. Why tomorrow? Let’s go now, Ivan Aleksandrovich, now, ‘pon my word. To be sure, it’s a great honor and all that. But really we’d better go as quick as we can. You see, they’ve taken you for somebody else, honest. And your dad will be angry because you dilly-dallied so long. We’d gallop off so smartly. They’d give us first-class horses here.

Khlestakov [writing]. All right. But first take this letter to the postoffice, and, if you like, order post horses at the same time. Tell the postilions that they should drive like couriers and sing songs, and I’ll give them a ruble each. [Continues to write.] I wager Triapichkin will die laughing.

Osip. I’ll send the letter off by the man here. I’d rather be packing in the meanwhile so as to lose no time.

Khlestakov. All right. Bring me a candle.

Osip [outside the door, where he is heard speaking]. Say, partner, go to the post office and mail a letter, and tell the postmaster to frank it. And have a coach sent round at once, the very best courier coach; and tell them the master doesn’t pay fare. He travels at the expense of the government. And make them hurry, or else the master will be angry. Wait, the letter isn’t ready yet.

Khlestakov. I wonder where he lives now, on Pochtamtskaya or Grokhovaya Street. He likes to move often, too, to get out of paying rent. I’ll make a guess and send it to Pochtamtskaya Street. [Folds the letter and addresses it.]

Osip brings the candle. Khlestakov seals the letter with sealing wax. At that moment Derzhimorda’s voice is heard saying: “Where are you going, whiskers? You’ve been told that nobody is allowed to come in.”

Khlestakov [giving the letter to Osip]. There, have it mailed.

Merchant’S VOICE. Let us in, brother. You have no right to keep us out. We have come on business.

Derzhimorda’S VOICE. Get out of here, get out of here! He doesn’t receive anybody. He’s asleep.

The disturbance outside grows louder.

Khlestakov. What’s the matter there, Osip? See what the noise is about.

Osip [looking through the window]. There are some merchants there who want to come in, and the sergeant won’t let them. They are waving papers. I suppose they want to see you.

Khlestakov [going to the window]. What is it, friends?

Merchant’S VOICE. We appeal for your protection. Give orders, your Lordship, that our petitions be received.

Khlestakov. Let them in, let them in. Osip, tell them to come in.

Osip goes out.

Khlestakov [takes the petitions through the window, unfolds one of them and reads]. “To his most honorable, illustrious financial Excellency, from the merchant Abdulin . . . .” The devil knows what this is! There’s no such title.


Khlestakov and Merchants, with a basket of wine and sugar loaves.

Khlestakov. What is it, friends?

Merchants. We beseech your favor.

Khlestakov. What do you want?

Merchants. Don’t ruin us, your Worship. We suffer insult and wrong wholly without cause.

Khlestakov. From whom?

A merchant. Why, from our governor here. Such a governor there never was yet in the world, your Worship. No words can describe the injuries he inflicts upon us. He has taken the bread out of our mouths by quartering soldiers on us, so that you might as well put your neck in a noose. He doesn’t treat you as you deserve. He catches hold of your beard and says, “Oh, you Tartar!” Upon my word, if we had shown him any disrespect, but we obey all the laws and regulations. We don’t mind giving him what his wife and daughter need for their clothes, but no, that’s not enough. So help me God! He comes to our shop and takes whatever his eyes fall on. He sees a piece of cloth and says, “Oh, my friends, that’s a fine piece of goods. Take it to my house.” So we take it to his house. It will be almost forty yards.

Khlestakov. Is it possible? My, what a swindler!

Merchants. So help us God! No one remembers a governor like him. When you see him coming you hide everything in the shop. It isn’t only that he wants a few delicacies and fineries. He takes every bit of trash, too — prunes that have been in the barrel seven years and that even the boy in my shop would not eat, and he grabs a fist full. His name day is St. Anthony’s, and you’d think there’s nothing else left in the world to bring him and that he doesn’t want any more. But no, you must give him more. He says St. Onufry’s is also his name day. What’s to be done? You have to take things to him on St. Onufry’s day, too.

Khlestakov. Why, he’s a plain robber.

Merchants. Yes, indeed! And try to contradict him, and he’ll fill your house with a whole regiment of soldiers. And if you say anything, he orders the doors closed. “I won’t inflict corporal punishment on you,” he says, “or put you in the rack. That’s forbidden by law,” he says. “But I’ll make you swallow salt herring, my good man.”

Khlestakov. What a swindler! For such things a man can be sent to Siberia.

Merchants. It doesn’t matter where you are pleased to send him. Only the farthest away from here the better. Father, don’t scorn to accept our bread and salt. We pay our respects to you with sugar and a basket of wine.

Khlestakov. No, no. Don’t think of it. I don’t take bribes. Oh, if, for example, you would offer me a loan of three hundred rubles, that’s quite different. I am willing to take a loan.

Merchants. If you please, father. [They take out money.] But what is three hundred? Better take five hundred. Only help us.

Khlestakov. Very well. About a loan I won’t say a word. I’ll take it.

Merchants [proffering him the money on a silver tray]. Do please take the tray, too.

Khlestakov. Very well. I can take the tray, too.

Merchants [bowing]. Then take the sugar at the same time.

Khlestakov. Oh, no. I take no bribes.

Osip. Why don’t you take the sugar, your Highness? Take it. Everything will come in handy on the road. Give here the sugar and that case. Give them here. It’ll all be of use. What have you got there — a string? Give it here. A string will be handy on the road, too, if the coach or something else should break — for tying it up.

Merchants. Do us this great favor, your illustrious Highness. Why, if you don’t help us in our appeal to you, then we simply don’t know how we are to exist. We might as well put our necks in a noose.

Khlestakov. Positively, positively. I shall exert my efforts in your behalf.

[The Merchants leave. A woman’s voice is heard saying:]

“Don’t you dare not to let me in. I’ll make a complaint against you to him himself. Don’t push me that way. It hurts.”

Khlestakov. Who is there? [Goes to the window.] What is it, mother?

[Two women’s voices are heard:] “We beseech your grace, father. Give orders, your Lordship, for us to be heard.”

Khlestakov. Let her in.


Khlestakov, the Locksmith’s Wife, and the non-commissioned Officer’s Widow.

Lock.‘S WIFE [kneeling]. I beseech your grace.

Widow. I beseech your grace.

Khlestakov. Who are you?

Widow. Ivanova, widow of a non-commissioned officer.

Lock.‘S WIFE. Fevronya Petrova Poshliopkina, the wife of a locksmith, a burgess of this town. My father —

Khlestakov. Stop! One at a time. What do you want?

Lock.‘S WIFE. I beg for your grace. I beseech your aid against the governor. May God send all evil upon him. May neither he nor his children nor his uncles nor his aunts ever prosper in any of their undertakings.

Khlestakov. What’s the matter?

Lock.‘S WIFE. He ordered my husband to shave his forehead as a soldier, and our turn hadn’t come, and it is against the law, my husband being a married man.

Khlestakov. How could he do it, then?

Lock.‘S WIFE. He did it, he did it, the blackguard! May God smite him both in this world and the next. If he has an aunt, may all harm descend upon her. And if his father is living, may the rascal perish, may he choke to death. Such a cheat! The son of the tailor should have been levied. And he is a drunkard, too. But his parents gave the governor a rich present, so he fastened on the son of the tradeswoman, Panteleyeva. And Panteleyeva also sent his wife three pieces of linen. So then he comes to me. “What do you want your husband for?” he says. “He isn’t any good to you any more.” It’s for me to know whether he is any good or not. That’s my business. The old cheat! “He’s a thief,” he says. “Although he hasn’t stolen anything, that doesn’t matter. He is going to steal. And he’ll be recruited next year anyway.” How can I do without a husband? I am not a strong woman. The skunk! May none of his kith and kin ever see the light of God. And if he has a mother-in-law, may she, too —

Khlestakov. All right, all right. Well, and you?

[Addressing the Widow and leading the Locksmith’s Wife to the door.]

Lock.‘S WIFE [leaving]. Don’t forget, father. Be kind and gracious to me.

Widow. I have come to complain against the Governor, father.

Khlestakov. What is it? What for? Be brief.

Widow. He flogged me, father.

Khlestakov. How so?

Widow. By mistake, my father. Our women got into a squabble in the market, and when the police came, it was all over, and they took me and reported me — I couldn’t sit down for two days.

Khlestakov. But what’s to be done now?

Widow. There’s nothing to be done, of course. But if you please, order him to pay a fine for the mistake. I can’t undo my luck. But the money would be very useful to me now.

Khlestakov. All right, all right. Go now, go. I’ll see to it. [Hands with petitions are thrust through the window.] Who else is out there? [Goes to the window.] No, no. I don’t want to, I don’t want to. [Leaves the window.] I’m sick of it, the devil take it! Don’t let them in, Osip.

Osip [calling through the window]. Go away, go away! He has no time. Come tomorrow.

The door opens and a figure appears in a shag cloak, with unshaven beard, swollen lip, and a bandage over his cheek. Behind him appear a whole line of others.

Osip. Go away, go away! What are you crowding in here for?

He puts his hands against the stomach of the first one, and goes out through the door, pushing him and banging the door behind.


Khlestakov and Marya Antonovna.

Marya. Oh!

Khlestakov. What frightened you so, mademoiselle?

Marya. I wasn’t frightened.

Khlestakov [showing off]. Please, miss. It’s a great pleasure to me that you took me for a man who — May I venture to ask you where you were going?

Marya. I really wasn’t going anywhere.

Khlestakov. But why weren’t you going anywhere?

Marya. I was wondering whether mamma was here.

Khlestakov. No. I’d like to know why you weren’t going anywhere.

Marya. I should have been in your way. You were occupied with important matters.

Khlestakov [showing off]. Your eyes are better than important matters. You cannot possibly disturb me. No, indeed, by no means. On the contrary, you afford me great pleasure.

Marya. You speak like a man from the capital.

Khlestakov. For such a beautiful lady as you. May I give myself the pleasure of offering you a chair? But no, you should have, not a chair, but a throne.

Marya. I really don’t know — I really must go [She sits down.]

Khlestakov. What a beautiful scarf that is.

Marya. You are making fun of me. You’re only ridiculing the provincials.

Khlestakov. Oh, mademoiselle, how I long to be your scarf, so that I might embrace your lily neck.

Marya. I haven’t the least idea what you are talking about — scarf! — Peculiar weather today, isn’t it?

Khlestakov. Your lips, mademoiselle, are better than any weather.

Marya. You are just saying that — I should like to ask you — I’d rather you would write some verses in my album for a souvenir. You must know very many.

Khlestakov. Anything you desire, mademoiselle. Ask! What verses will you have?

Marya. Any at all. Pretty, new verses.

Khlestakov. Oh, what are verses! I know a lot of them.

Marya. Well, tell me. What verses will you write for me?

Khlestakov. What’s the use? I know them anyway.

Marya. I love them so.

Khlestakov. I have lots of them — of every sort. If you like, for example, I’ll give you this: “Oh, thou, mortal man, who in thy anguish murmurest against God —” and others. I can’t remember them now. Besides, it’s all bosh. I’d rather offer you my love instead, which ever since your first glance — [Moves his chair nearer.]

Marya. Love? I don’t understand love. I never knew what love is. [Moves her chair away.]

Khlestakov. Why do you move your chair away? It is better for us to sit near each other.

Marya [moving away]. Why near? It’s all the same if it’s far away.

Khlestakov [moving nearer]. Why far? It’s all the same if it’s near.

Marya [moving away]. But what for?

Khlestakov [moving nearer]. It only seems near to you. Imagine it’s far. How happy I would be, mademoiselle, if I could clasp you in my embrace.

Marya [looking through the window]. What is that? It looked as if something had flown by. Was it a magpie or some other bird?

Khlestakov [kisses her shoulder and looks through the window]. It’s a magpie.

Marya [rises indignantly]. No, that’s too much — Such rudeness, such impertinence.

Khlestakov [holding her back]. Forgive me, mademoiselle. I did it only out of love — only out of love, nothing else.

Marya. You take me for a silly provincial wench. [Struggles to go away.]

Khlestakov [still holding her back]. It’s out of love, really — out of love. It was just a little fun. Marya Antonovna, don’t be angry. I’m ready to beg your forgiveness on my knees. [Falls on his knees.] Forgive me, do forgive me! You see, I am on my knees.


The same and Anna Andreyevna.

Anna [seeing Khlestakov on his knees]. Oh, what a situation!

Khlestakov [rising]. Oh, the devil!

Anna [to Marya]. What does this mean? What does this behavior mean?

Marya. I, mother —

Anna. Go away from here. Do you hear? And don’t you dare to show your face to me. [Marya goes out in tears.] Excuse me. I must say I’m greatly astonished.

Khlestakov [aside]. She’s very appetizing, too. She’s not bad-looking, either. [Flings himself on his knees.] Madam, you see I am burning with love.

Anna. What! You on your knees? Please get up, please get up. This floor isn’t very clean.

Khlestakov. No, I must be on my knees before you. I must. Pronounce the verdict. Is it life or death?

Anna. But please — I don’t quite understand the significance of your words. If I am not mistaken, you are making a proposal for my daughter.

Khlestakov. No, I am in love with you. My life hangs by a thread. If you don’t crown my steadfast love, then I am not fit to exist in this world. With a burning flame in my bosom, I pray for your hand.

Anna. But please remember I am in a certain way — married.

Khlestakov. That’s nothing. Love knows no distinction. It was Karamzin who said: “The laws condemn.” We will fly in the shadow of a brook. Your hand! I pray for your hand!


The same and Marya Antonovna.

Marya [running in suddenly]. Mamma, papa says you should — [seeing Khlestakov on his knees, exclaims:] Oh, what a situation!

Anna. Well, what do you want? Why did you come in here? What for? What sort of flightiness is this? Breaks in like a cat leaping out of smoke. Well, what have you found so wonderful? What’s gotten into your head again? Really, she behaves like a child of three. She doesn’t act a bit like a girl of eighteen, not a bit. I don’t know when you’ll get more sense into your head, when you’ll behave like a decent, well-bred girl, when you’ll know what good manners are and a proper demeanor.

Marya [through her tears]. Mamma, I really didn’t know —

Anna. There’s always a breeze blowing through your head. You act like Liapkin-Tiapkin’s daughter. Why should you imitate them? You shouldn’t imitate them. You have other examples to follow. You have your mother before you. She’s the example to follow.

Khlestakov [seizing Marya’s hand]. Anna Andreyevna, don’t oppose our happiness. Give your blessing to our constant love.

Anna [in surprise]. So it’s in her you are —

Khlestakov. Decide — life or death?

Anna. Well, there, you fool, you see? Our guest is pleased to go down on his knees for such trash as you. You, running in suddenly as if you were out of your mind. Really, it would be just what you deserve, if I refused. You are not worthy of such happiness.

Marya. I won’t do it again, mamma, really I won’t.


The same and the Governor in precipitate haste.

Governor. Your Excellency, don’t ruin me, don’t ruin me.

Khlestakov. What’s the matter?

Governor. The merchants have complained to your Excellency. I assure you on my honor that not one half of what they said is so. They themselves are cheats. They give short measure and short weight. The officer’s widow lied to you when she said I flogged her. She lied, upon my word, she lied. She flogged herself.

Khlestakov. The devil take the officer’s widow. What do I care about the officer’s widow.

Governor. Don’t believe them, don’t believe them. They are rank liars; a mere child wouldn’t believe them. They are known all over town as liars. And as for cheating, I venture to inform you that there are no swindlers like them in the whole of creation.

Anna. Do you know what honor Ivan Aleksandrovich is bestowing upon us? He is asking for our daughter’s hand.

Governor. What are you talking about? Mother has lost her wits. Please do not be angry, your Excellency. She has a touch of insanity. Her mother was like that, too.

Khlestakov. Yes, I am really asking for your daughter’s hand. I am in love with her.

Governor. I cannot believe it, your Excellency.

Anna. But when you are told!

Khlestakov. I am not joking. I could go crazy, I am so in love.

Governor. I daren’t believe it. I am unworthy of such an honor.

Khlestakov. If you don’t consent to give me your daughter Marya Antonovna’s hand, then I am ready to do the devil knows what.

Governor. I cannot believe it. You deign to joke, your Excellency.

Anna. My, what a blockhead! Really! When you are told over and over again!

Governor. I can’t believe it.

Khlestakov. Give her to me, give her to me! I am a desperate man and I may do anything. If I shoot myself, you will have a law-suit on your hands.

Governor. Oh, my God! I am not guilty either in thought or in action. Please do not be angry. Be pleased to act as your mercy wills. Really, my head is in such a state I don’t know what is happening. I have turned into a worse fool than I’ve ever been in my life.

Anna. Well, give your blessing.

Khlestakov goes up to Marya Antonovna.

Governor. May God bless you, but I am not guilty. [Khlestakov kisses Marya. The Governor looks at them.] What the devil! It’s really so. [Rubs his eyes.] They are kissing. Oh, heavens! They are kissing. Actually to be our son-in-law! [Cries out, jumping with glee.] Ho, Anton! Ho, Anton! Ho, Governor! So that’s the turn events have taken!


The same and Osip.

Osip. The horses are ready.

Khlestakov. Oh! All right. I’ll come presently.

Governor. What’s that? Are you leaving?

Khlestakov. Yes, I’m going.

Governor. Then when — that is — I thought you were pleased to hint at a wedding.

Khlestakov. Oh — for one minute only — for one day — to my uncle, a rich old man. I’ll be back tomorrow.

Governor. We would not venture, of course, to hold you back, and we hope for your safe return.

Khlestakov. Of course, of course, I’ll come back at once. Good-by, my dear — no, I simply can’t express my feelings. Good-by, my heart. [Kisses Marya’s hand.]

Governor. Don’t you need something for the road? It seems to me you were pleased to be short of cash.

Khlestakov, Oh, no, what for? [After a little thought.] However, if you like.

Governor. How much will you have?

Khlestakov. You gave me two hundred then, that is, not two hundred, but four hundred — I don’t want to take advantage of your mistake — you might let me have the same now so that it should be an even eight hundred.

Governor. Very well. [Takes the money out of his pocket-book.] The notes happen to be brand-new, too, as though on purpose.

Khlestakov. Oh, yes. [Takes the bills and looks at them.] That’s good. They say new money means good luck.

Governor. Quite right.

Khlestakov. Good-by, Anton Antonovich. I am very much obliged to you for your hospitality. I admit with all my heart that I have never got such a good reception anywhere. Good-by, Anna Andreyevna. Good-by, my sweet-heart, Marya Antonovna.

All go out.

Behind the Scenes.

Khlestakov. Good-by, angel of my soul, Marya Antonovna.

Governor. What’s that? You are going in a plain mail-coach?

Khlestakov. Yes, I’m used to it. I get a headache from a carriage with springs.

Postilion. Ho!

Governor. Take a rug for the seat at least. If you say so, I’ll tell them to bring a rug.

Khlestakov. No, what for? It’s not necessary. However, let them bring a rug if you please.

Governor. Ho, Avdotya. Go to the store-room and bring the very best rug from there, the Persian rug with the blue ground. Quick!

Postilion. Ho!

Governor. When do you say we are to expect you back?

Khlestakov. Tomorrow, or the day after.

Osip. Is this the rug? Give it here. Put it there. Now put some hay on this side.

Postilion. Ho!

Osip. Here, on this side. More. All right. That will be fine. [Beats the rug down with his hand.] Now take the seat, your Excellency.

Khlestakov. Good-by, Anton Antonovich.

Governor. Good-by, your Excellency.

Anna } MARYA} Good-by, Ivan Aleksandrovich.

Khlestakov. Good-by, mother.

Postilion. Get up, my boys!

The bell rings and the curtain drops.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54